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Egg Freezing and Your Fertility


by Rachel Lehmann-Haupt, Feb. 3, 2010

Though egg freezing is still considered experimental by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the good news is that the technology involved is improving every day. Doctors at the Northwest Center for Reproductive Sciences, released part of a study this month showing that frozen eggs can be as effective as fresh eggs in helping women achieve an IVF pregnancy.

Though the study is ongoing and has yet to be published, the part that was released -- of egg donors between the ages of 24 and 28 -- found that 85 percent of the eggs survived the thaw after being frozen through the vitrification method instead of the more traditional slow freeze method. As a result, subsequent in vitro fertilization of those eggs generated a 67percent fertilization rate, which was as good as the average success rate for fresh eggs. According to Dr. Gerard Letterie, NCRS's founder, the average fertilization for fresh oocytes in an infertile couple will range from 50 percent to 85 - 90 percent depending on any number of variables such as poor sperm or poor quality oocytes among other issues.

"Until recently, egg freezing was largely reserved for women undergoing cancer treatment who set aside their eggs in hopes of preserving post-recovery fertility options," said Dr. Letterie. "The new study reinforces our success with vitrification, a superior fast-freezing process. Now we can create fewer embryos on an as-needed basis and return other eggs to storage for later treatment rather than putting a patient through additional egg retrievals."

While egg freezing allows women to postpone pregnancy whether due to medical necessity, career demands, or to help relieve the pressure on a single women to find the perfect partner on time, the study’s variables do raise the question of age: the women in the study were in their 20s. Most women who freeze their eggs to wait for the right partner do so over the age of 35 when their percentage of high-quality eggs has declined.

"Egg quality may further impact how eggs survive the thaw and a high FSH level is a sign of poorer egg quality for older women who are considering freezing their eggs," said Dr. Letterie. "But this study should be reassuring that the technology is getting better so that means a higher number of good eggs will survive and potentially fertilize."


Rachel Lehmann-Haupt ( is a journalist and the author of In Her Own Sweet Time: Unexpected Adventures in Finding Love, Commitment and Motherhood (Basic Books, 2009).